Saturday saw the first of this season’s North London derbies as Arsenal beat their old foes in a thrilling 5-2 encounter.
Here's a full run down...
Wojciech Szczesny: 6
His unfortunate error for Spurs’ first goal – his parrying of Jermaine Defoe’s initial shot, subsequently fell straight to Emmanuel Adebayor and, at that point, Arsenal looked like they had an uphill climb to get back into the game.
Whilst he didn’t have spectacular saves to make, his distribution was sublime and helped his team keep possession. However, he started time-wasting with a good quarter of an hour left to play which I felt was a bit odd, considering Arsenal were leading 4-2.
Bacary Sagna: 7
Partially to blame for Spurs’ first goal, not sure what he was doing positionally but nonetheless he kept Gareth Bale relatively quiet and linked up with Walcott on the right flank very well – Arsenal looked very dangerous as the crosses flew into the box.
Per Mertesacker: 7
Again, horrendously out of position for Spurs’ first goal and too slow to track get back but his goal got Arsenal back in charge of the game. However, there are still concerns over his positioning – if he knows he can’t compete with pacey attackers then he shouldn’t push up in the first place.
Laurent Koscielny: 7
Saved Mertesacker’s blushes on a number of occasions and Vermaelen’s too when the captain found himself out of position. Covers very well and seems to have curbed his enthusiasm for going to ground with his tackles.
Thomas Vermaelen: 7
Looked shaky against Aaron Lennon in the first half and, again, I wasn’t convinced he was comfortable as a full-back. However, he grew into the game and Lennon posed much less of a threat in the second half. Improved on his tendency this season to give away silly fouls in and around the area – I can only recall one that was unnecessary from him.
Mikel Arteta: 7
Protected the back-four well and, after Adebayor’s dismissal found himself more space to move in and around – linked up well with Wilshere and Cazorla, he gives them the freedom to get forward. Never shy of a tackle and rarely wasteful in possession.
Jack Wilshere: 7
Got himself a little worked up early on – his youth and inexperience manifested as immaturity when he started a fisty-cuffs with Bale. Also needs to be more tactful with his tackling – he could have easily picked up a caution in the first-half which would have compromised him for the rest of the game. However, his technique and passing is immense and he linked up exquisitely with Cazorla. Arsenal definitely lost one of their engines when Aaron Ramsey came on to replace him. He was unlucky not to get a goal himself.
Santi Cazorla: 9
Very lively and brings to the team what, in my mind, what they’ve lacked since they lost Fabregas – he’s the nucleus of all attacking play and is always in space to receive the ball from his teammates who look for him at every opportunity. Classy and creative, he was unstoppable after Adebayor’s sending off. He had so much freedom to create which he used in abundance.
Lukas Podolski: 8
Whilst his goal wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, it was a just reward for his industry and energy – he tracked back all game and blunted the effectiveness of Lennon, doubling up with Vermaelen on the left flank. His assist for Cazorla’s goal was exemplary – a demonstration in quality, intelligence and precision. But, as the most substituted player in the league this season, he needs to work on his fitness – Arsenal need him for 90 minutes.
Theo Walcott: 9
His performance displayed everything he has to offer – minus all the things that make him infuriating. He applied his trade on the right flank with quality, diligence, and intelligence – his crossing was superb and his driving runs were dangerous on every occasion.
He showed he offers more than just sheer pace – he’s matured into the inside forward he was billed as. He’s added more strength and durability to his game, he’s no longer shrugged off by full-backs or easily isolated into the corner flag. His goal was well taken and points to the potential he has to become a central striker.
Olivier Giroud: 8
He seems to be growing into the Premier League – his goal was taken with confidence, strength, and agility. He was unlucky not to get another – his heading is dangerously accurate and his movement is intelligent. He offers Arsenal the option of crossing into the box at every opportunity, something which they’ve not had since Chamakh first arrived. He’s happy to chase down loose balls and leads the line well. It’s now much easier to see how he became Ligue 1’s top scorer last year.
Andre Santos: 6
Fairly anonymous but didn’t cause any chaos either.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 7
Delivered a smart assist for Walcott’s goal but looks like a player coming back from injury.
Aaron Ramsey: 6
Coming on for Wilshere highlighted his status as understudy to the Englishman, despite being the elder and more experienced – he has a tendency to be sloppy in possession and finds himself anonymous for long periods. Hesitant on the ball far too often.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald